Rozhodl jsem se, že v rámci svých recenzí méně známých knížek budu uvádět i ukázky, aby případný zájemce mohl sám posoudit jazyk a obsah knihy, jestli se mu budou líbit. Z hlediska autorského zákona by to mělo být v pořádku (podle paragrafu 31, odstavec 1), pokud však majitel práv s mým názorem nesouhlasí, uvítal bych, kdyby napřed kontaktoval kvůli odstranění ukázky mě a teprve v případě neúspěchu soud.
Následuje první kapitola z povídky The Living Lies, kterou napsal známý sci-fi autor John Wyndham (Den trifidů, Kukly), jak byla otištěna v druhém čísle časopisu New Worlds v roce 1946. Časopis se bohužel skoro nedá sehnat, jediná šance je trpělivě číhat na Ebayi a doufat. Recenzi naleznete zde.
- New Worlds. London: Pendulum Publications Ltd., 1946, č.2.
Five little Green girls wrangled on the sidewalk; the central disputants held, one the legs, and the other the arms, of a large doll.
“You said I could have her today,” yelled Legs, bitterly.
“No, I didn’t. You had her yesterday,” screamed Arms. “I want her.”
“You said I could,” Legs persisted doggedly.
“She’s mine. You let her go.” Arms tugged violently. The doll’s stitches strained, but it held together. “Will you let go?” howled the one who held the arms.
On the last word she tugged with all her weight. The suffering doll’s arms tore off. The child, still holding them, staggered back and fell into the roadway. Her shriek, as a wheel crushed her, was drowned in the screams of her four little friends.
Leonie Ward, her hands on the wheel, her foot hard down on the brake, did not scream. Something seemed to take her by the throat, she felt her heart turn over inside her and her face went sickly pale. For an instant everything appeared to stop, held in a ghastly tableau. The people transfixed in the street, the car hanging on its gyroscopes, Leonie frozen in the driving seat; the only sound an unforgettable scream.
A woman flung herself into the road and dragged the child’s crushed body from between the wheels. For a moment she clasped it, then she looked up. The girl, half-stunned, had not moved from the wheel; she shivered as their eyes met. The woman’s face and the hands were as green as those of the child she held; it made her hatred and anguish the more horribly terrifying. Without lowering her burning eyes, crouched with the dead child pressed against her, she began to scream threats and curses.
There was a crowd round the car now, a ring of green-faced men and women rapidly pressing closer. Still Leonie sat unmoving, unable to think or act, but feeling the growing hostility of the crowd.
Two burly men in uniform came shouldering their way through the press. They made a strange contrast with the others, for their faces beneath their padded hats and their hands, already clutching batons in readiness for trouble, were a brilliant magenta in colour. They worked close to the cream car and began pushing the people back.
“Now then, get along. Move along there.”
One of them went to the mother of the child. Not unkindly he laid a hand an her shoulder. She shook it off, sprang to her feet and spat at him.
“Don’t you touch me, you filthy Red.”
There was a murmur in the green-faced crowd. The woman seemed to forget him for a moment. She leaped towards the car and clawed at Leonie through the open window.
“You murderess! I’ll kill you for that.”
A uniformed arm came over her shoulder and pulled her away. She turned and raked at the man’s red face with her nails. He put up a hand to save his eyes.
“Bloody Green bitch,” he muttered, fending her off.
“D’you hear that?” she shrieked. “D’you hear what he called me?”
The crowd had. Someone put an arm round the red man’s throat and dragged him backwards. Half a dozen green-faced men and women leapt upon him; simultaneously his companion went down in a whirl of crashing fists. From one of the fallen policemen came a scream of shuddering agony. It brought Leonie suddenly alive again. In terror she struck at the green arms reaching in to seize her, desparately she sought to restart the engine. With panic in her veins she did not care if she cut down a dozen of the Green people if she could only thrust clear of the mob. But even as the engine came to life she felt the car rise and sway, and knew that they had lifted the driving wheel clear off the ground. A green hand caught her wrist and wrenched it off the wheel, she was dragged half out of the window. Her shoulder socket hurt like fire; she felt her arm being torn off like the doll’s. A row of gloating green faces awaited her. Then the whole car tilted beneath her and a curtain of black fell over everything.
She was lying on her back, looking up at a white ceiling. There was a moment before it all came back, then, fearfully, she turned her head. Close beside her she saw a face that was not green, magenta or black, but the pink and white of her own race. She burst into tears of relief, aware through them of a hand which patted her shoulder and a voice which tried to soothe her, but unable to stop the storm of weeping.
“I’m sorry,” she said at last, as it subsided. “I’m sorry to be such a fool.”
“Nonsense,” a voice told her. “Best thing you could have done. Now drink this. No, don’t try to move. I’ll hold it.”
A hand raised her head slightly. Another held a glass to her lips. The spirit stung her throat, but it worked like an elixir. In a few minutes she began to feel like an utterly new person.
She turned and studied the man beside her. Later middle aged, fifty-five, perhaps sixty, she judged. His hair was mostly grey, and surmounted a finely shaped, ascetic type of face. The eyes were grey, too, and kindly, with fine webs of little wrinkles at the corners; the mouth was firm, but without hardness.
“What happened? Where am I? Who are you?” she asked, almost in one sentence. The man smiled.
“My name is Francis Clouster and this is my house. A friend of mine brought you here.”
“But how did I get out of that crowd?”
“He’ll be able to tell you that better than I can. I’ll call him.” He went to the door and opened it. “Jimmy,” he said, “the lady would like to see you.”
Leonie recoiled involuntarily at the sight of the man who came in. She had expected a man of her own kind. The newcomer was green as a grass lawn. The two men either did not notice or affected not to notice her movement.
“This is Jimmy Craven,” the older man introduced, “Miss…?”
“Leonie Ward,” Leonie told them.
“Miss Ward would like to hear what happened, Jimmy,” said the older.
“I happened to be there when the accident took place,” the Green man said. “It was quite obvious to anyone who saw it that no driver could have avoided it. You were as quick on the brake as anyone could possibly be. No blame whatever can be attached to you. But most of the people who were in the crowd didn’t actually see it happen. Even so, it might have passed off quietly but for that Red policeman.
“Just as your car went over, a squad of Red police turned up. Green police might have smoothed things over, but that mob was just right for trouble with Reds, they’d killed two already, and they went bald-headed for this lot. In the mix-up I saw that half-crazy woman making for you. Your left arm was jammed under the car so that you couldn’t have fought her off, even if you’d been conscious. So I chased her off, managed to get your arm free, and carried you out of the mess. If anybody noticed they probably thought you were an injured Green, because I’d put a rug over you.”
Leonie was watching him as he talked, deciding that he was personable and, but for his colouring, might have been handsome. Possibly in the eyes of another Green he actually was so.
She thanked him as he stopped. He shook his head.
“It was common justice. The accident was in no way your fault. That woman was crazy enough to have killed you, or defaced you for life. If you don’t mind my saying so, it was extremely rash of you to come here alone at all. And in the circumstances you are lucky to have got off as lightly as you have done.”
“I don’t feel as if I had got off exactly lightly.”
“You’ve been pretty well bruised,” put in Clouster, “but your main injuries are a compound fracture of the left forearm and a badly strained right shoulder.”
“I wonder the shoulder wasn’t dislocated; it felt like it. But, tell me, why shouldn’t I have come here alone?”
“I should have thought that was obvious enough.”
“Do you mean I might have been attacked even if there had not been an accident?”
Her host and the Green man looked at one another.
“Weren’t you warned against it?” Clouster asked.
“Oh, yes, they did say something. But they used to tell me to be careful of all sorts of places on Earth and nothing ever happened.”
“Venus,” said Clouster, “is not Earth. Do you mean you’ve only just come here?”
“Well, I’ve only just come back—about a month ago—they sent me to be educated on Earth. I was very young when I left.”
“I see. Well, I’m afraid you’re going to find that a lot of things you can take for granted on Earth are very different on Venus. There is not the problem there of the Reds, the Blacks, the Whites of our kind, and the Greens of Jimmy’s.”
“There are Black men on Earth.”
“So there are, but they have learned to co-operate with Whites and Yellows.”
“They must be very different from our Blacks,” the Green man put in, bitterly. “All ours want to do is to rule.”
He looked up and caught the older man’s expression.
“Yes, I know that’s not what you like to hear, Francis, but, hell, it’s true.”
“And the Greens?” inquired Clouster.
“They want justice and permission to live in peace: is that too much?”
“That’s just what the Blacks tell me.”
“Oh, well, if you believe them—”
“Why not try believing them a bit, Jimmy? After all, what’s the difference beyond the colour of our skins?”
The Green man rose.
“Sorry. If you’re going to preach, Francis, I’m leaving. Goodbye, Miss Ward. I’m glad to have been able to help you.”
Francis Clouster looked at the door as it shut.
“And there,” he said, turning back to Leonie. “There you have the state of Venus in a nutshell.”
“Tell me some more about it,” Leonie said.
“All right. But hadn’t you better send some message to your family first? I’m afraid it won’t be possible for them to fetch you tonight. There’s too much trouble round here, but you ought to let them know. I’ll bring you the telephone.”
Leonie spoke into the instrument while he held it. It roused in her the feeling, always latent, that in coming back to Venus she had gone back a few centuries. Telephones, because radio wouldn’t work on Venus, but it wasn’t only the lack of radio…
Mr. Mattington Ward returned to the dinner table.
“It was Leonie,” he explained to his guests. “She’s over in Chellan. Bit knocked about in a Green and Red riot, I’m afraid. Tells me not to worry, but to come over and fetch her in the morning when ther neighbourhood’s quietened down a bit. She’s right, too. Police say there’s quite a bit of trouble down there.”
The most important of his guests looked at him hard. Wilfred Baisham, head of the Venus Mineral Products Consolidation, had not only a dominating position, but an authorative personality.
“Chellan?” he said. “What the devil was your daughter doing in Chellan?”
“Taking a short cut, I understand.” Mr. Ward, if he resented his guest’s tone, did not show it.
“I’ve warned her, of course, but I suppose she didn’t really appreciate it. I don’t suppose it’s too easy for her to grasp at first.”
Mr. Baisham said, weightily:
“I don’t approve of the practice of sending Venus-born children to Earth for education. It gives them false standards. How can they be expected to have a proper appreciation of our system when they are educated in another. It just gives them subversive ideas which they have to unlearn before or after they get into trouble.”
Mr. Ward made no reply. Indeed, at the back of his mind, he agreed with his guest. He would have preferred to have Leonie educated at home and would have done so but for the promise he had made to her mother. He had kept that promise in spite of a feeling that he was alienating his child and a fear that she might not be able to feel at home on Venus any more than her Earthborn mother had done.
“Who’s looking after her?” Mr. Baisham inquired.
“Some people called Clouster, I gather.”
“Oh, yes, I know. Idealists, type that might have been missionaries on Earth at one time. They do some kind of social work in Chellan. They’ll look after her all right.” He smiled at a thought. “Funny, isn’t it, these people who give their lives to spreading brotherly love among Greens, Reds and Blacks. You’d think it would dawn on them that if people have to be told to love one another all the time there must be some pretty good reason why they don’t. But it doesn’t seem to. Well, it’s probably a good thing; it’ll teach your daughter to keep clear of Chellan and such places in future.”
Again Mr. Ward found himself in agreement. Leonie had given him no details of her injuries so that his impression was that she had had a scare—there was nothing like a touch of that kind of wind up to show a girl the necessity for conventions and taboos.
“Now tell me about Venus,” Leonie directed. “Nobody has, except for what I learned at school. It’s all so usual to everyone here that they don’t mother to explain any of it. Now and then they say ‘Don’t,’ that’s all. Now, like the geography books: The inhabitants of Venus are of four types…”
“… the Whites, the Greens, the Reds and the Blacks,” he took her up. “But I quarrel with your word ‘types’. They are all the same type—only heir skins are different colours.”
“They wouldn’t thank you for that from what I’ve leard.”
He nodded. “They wouldn’t; that’s the tragedy.”
He went on to describe the Venusian social state, speaking not as a White, but as one who had tried to consider himself as one of all the four classes. As for the Whites, their position was simple, they were of Earth stock on both sides and some of them actually Earth born. They dominated socially, industrially, commercially: they were, in fact, the indisputed ruling class, they despised the coloured peoples, and the one common sentiment of the three colours was dislike, tempered by fear, of the Whites.
Leonie nodded. “Something like all the little nations on Earth before the Revolutions led up to the Great Union,” she suggested.
“Very like, in some ways,” Francis Clouster agreed, “but even more tragic here. On Earth there were physical differences as well as different languages to be overcome. Here the language is the same, the physical structure is identical. They differ in nothing but their skins—and they do not, they refuse to, know it. My wife and I know it. We have lived among Greens, Reds and Blacks; we have friends of each colour whom we trust, but who would hate one another at sight if we were to allow them to meet. You saw just now how even an intelligent Green reacts when one mentions a Black.”
“But he saved me—a White.”
“Certainly. You are a girl and very good looking. The dislike of the colours for the Whites is different from their dislike of one another, it is based on envy, not contempt. That makes a lot of difference, you see. I don’t want to be uncharitable, but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Jimmy is rather fancying himself for having rescued a White girl.”
He went on to talk of the three colours and the hatred they held for one another. How the Reds believed that the Blacks were dirty and dishonest, and the Greens were vicious and sly to a man: how the Greens and Blacks considered the Reds to be bullies and braggarts, frequently unstable in the small amount of brain they possessed. How the children of all three groups grew up in their homes and in their separate schools, hearing these things from their earliest years and believing them.
“There’s a parallel for that, too, in Earth history,” Leonie observed. “There was teaching like that, against Jews.”
“Certainly. There are plenty of parallels. Too many. But the good one is yet to come.” He sat silent a minute, lost in thought.
“You mean like the Great Union?”
He nodded. “There was a day on Earth when the people revolted. They refused any longer to be thrown into slaughter of and by people of whom they knew nothing, for the profit of people who exploited them. They rose against it, one, another, and another, to throw out their rulers and rule themselves. And so came the Great Union. Government of the People, by the People, for the People, over the whole Earth. How long will Venus have to wait for that?”
“You are a revolutionary?”
He looked at her steadily. “Yes, I suppose I am that. A revolutionist with no party to lead,” he smiled wryly. “Quite harmless to the Whites and their authorities, I assure you. If I were to collect a following of Greens, the Blacks and Reds would unite to crush us: if I collected Reds the Blacks and Greens would combine. We should slaughter one another while the Whites went on living comfortably, untroubled.”
“But how did this happen? Who are these coloured peoples, where did they come from, and why do they hate one another so much?”
“That is not clear. They are said to be descendants of the first Earthmen who came to Venus long ago and mated with the natives. The theory is that the natives died out from contact with civilisation as some races died on Earth, but not before the ancestors of our present Blacks, Reds and Greens were fairly numerous.”
“What else could it be?”
“Exactly. What else?”
Leonie had opened her mouth to speak again when the door suddenly swung wide. A young man, green as her rescuer had been, strode in without noticing her where she lay on the day-bed.
“Hullo, Dad, is Mother a…” he broke off suddenly as he caught sight of her. There was a moment’s silence.
“Is Mother Clouster about, Francis?” he asked, in an uncertain tone.